Despite all of the punch lines, New Jersey is known as the Garden State for a reason. And while everyone says this about their state, New Jersey is, simply put, gorgeous, full of incredible icons and hidden gems that all make for wonderful places to walk a dog.
Over time, every dog owner will develop their own shortlist of the “The Best Walks Ever.” That will of course depend on the age, breed, and athleticism of their dog. So, we decided to ask Robert Thomas from Marvelous Dogs what his favorite places are to walk a dog in New Jersey. These walks are five of his favorites, and they will hopefully be equally accessible and delightful for every dog and their owner
1. Palisades Interstate Park
The Palisades are a strong contender for the most beautiful spot in New Jersey, and any walk through this park is sure to show them off to their best advantage. They are also close enough to New York City that even urban dwellers can make a day trip there. Featuring an impressive array of cliffs, steeps, and drop-offs, anyone bringing their dog to this park can expect spectacular views, but should also be sure to keep their dog on leash and on the trail. Wandering at the Palisades might be fun, but it can also have very painful and sometimes tragic consequences.
One of the great things about the park as a place to walk your dog is that the trails cover a variety of skill levels, from easy and relatively flat to steep and rugged terrain. This means that not only is the park accessible for all skill levels of hikers and all ages and sizes of dogs, it can also continue to be one of your favorite walking spots, even as your dog’s needs and abilities change with age or injury.
2. Morristown National Historic Park
This historical site in North Jersey features 27 miles of trails that wind their way through the 1779-1780 winter encampment of George Washington and the Continental Army. While your dog is enraptured by the sights, sounds, and squirrels of the Great Outdoors, history buffs can keep themselves occupied by reading about historical events and viewing the remnants of 1,000 soldiers’ huts that still stand. People visiting without their dogs can also check out the historical museum and fine art photography exhibition on site. The park will appease walkers of a variety of skill levels, but you should not expect anything with the steepness or difficulty of the Palisades trails described above.
3. Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve
This nature preserve features nine miles of trail located right in Princeton, New Jersey, but it does not feel like it. Highlights of a walk in this stunning park include the peaceful old-growth forests and the bubbling brooks that your dog will love to splash in and try to drink from. A muddy dog is a happy dog. These trails are especially well-suited to more casual walkers or anyone looking for a tranquil afternoon stroll. The longest trail is still only about two miles long, and visitors can expect relatively flat, gentle terrain that will be easy on the joints of both humans and canines.
4. Estell Manor Park
The 27 miles of trails in this Jersey Shore park are both stunning and somewhat unusual. Bordered by the South River and cutting through swamps and marshes, these trails are sandy and will take you through a gorgeous coastal forest and unique cedar swamp. Another feature of the park is the Swamp Trail Boardwalk, almost two miles of elevated boardwalk that passes some of the most interesting sites in the park. While most of the trails here are flat and relatively easy, the wet terrain does mean they can get muddy; visitors should be sure to bring good boots and a towel for their dog.
5. Blueberry Hill Trail
This South Jersey trail system will give you the best of both worlds, with a rural, woodsy walk that culminates (on a clear day) in a breathtaking view of the Philadelphia skyline. That walk is less than half a mile by the most direct route, but there are more than three miles of trails in the system to explore, including paved, gravel, and dirt paths. Another point of interest to check out is the remains of an abandoned radar station from the 1950s. Dog walkers should keep an eye out for bicyclists on the narrower trails, but the trails make for a relatively easy walk, although there are steps up to the final Philadelphia vista. This is also another walk that winds through some wetlands, so visitors should be prepared for mud and potential washouts.
These are, of course, only a few of the many incredible walks and hikes that a dog might love to explore in New Jersey. While they are some of our (and our dogs’) favorites, everyone’s needs, preferences, and dogs are different, and one of the best things about New Jersey is there are so many dog-friendly parks, hikes, and trail systems that it is hard to go wrong if you just pick one and decide to go on a grand adventure. As long as you remember your hiking safety, pack for the weather, charge your phone, and bring a map, you and your dog will almost certainly have a great time—or at least a good story.
Main photo by Martin Dalsgaard